Intelligence Squared

Intelligence Squared


Intelligence Squared is the world’s leading forum for debate and intelligent discussion. Live and online we take you to the heart of the issues that matter, in the company of some of the world’s sharpest minds and most exciting orators. Join the debate at and download our weekly podcast every Friday.


The End of Antibiotics?  

This panel discussion took place at the New York Academy of Sciences in September 2016 and was produced by Intelligence Squared, in partnership with the World Health Organisation and the Wellcome Trust. There’s a time bomb ticking that is going to affect us all. Whether you are a sub-Saharan subsistence farmer or a New Yorker buying a super-smoothie in Wholefoods, there will be no escape. The threat? An invisible army of super-resistant bacteria is on the march. Antibiotics, the drugs that have saved millions of lives and are critical for the world’s health and wellbeing, have become a victim of their own success. Their overuse and misuse have helped bacteria and other infectious bugs to develop resistance to them, meaning that many infections are no longer effectively treatable by current medicines. Every year 700,000 people die of drug-resistant infections, and experts predict that this number could rise to 10 million. On top of this, recent research points to a possible link between antibiotics and obesity, as well as type 2 diabetes and asthma. If the link with obesity sounds surprising, it shouldn’t. Antibiotics have been used not just to combat sickness, but to promote weight gain and faster growth in farm animals for several decades. In fact, around 70% of antibiotics in the US are given to livestock, and this has a knock-on effect on human health, as the resistant strains of bacteria get into the food chain and are consumed by us. Antibiotic residues have also been found in crops that have been fertilised with manure from livestock and in the water supply – so going vegan does not guarantee protection. We risk entering a post-antibiotic era where routine operations such as hip replacements and cancer treatment, which rely on effective antibiotic medicines, will become much more dangerous, and people will die of common infections as they did 100 years ago. This is a global problem, whose impact will be felt by everyone everywhere. To beat it, people and communities need to get informed and engaged. We are going to have to take urgent action at every level, from governments right down to the individual consumer. That’s why Intelligence Squared, in partnership with the World Health Organization and the Wellcome Trust, brought together an international panel of speakers from science, agriculture, food production and consumer activism, to discuss what is being done and must be done to reverse the situation for the long term. The event took place on September 14th at the New York Academy of Sciences, one week before the high level United Nations meeting on the subject.

David Eagleman on the Science of De- (and Re-) Humanisation (and Why it Matters)  

Which side were you on? The Jets or the Sharks? The Capulets or the Montagues? The Greeks or the Trojans? Antony or Caesar? William or Harold? And so the list goes on ... Indeed, maybe the whole of human history is the story of group-making and group-breaking. The passions of loyalty and love for the in-group are matched by the de-humanising indignation and hatred for the out-group. But what's actually going on in the chemical soup of the brain when Agamemnon gathers his heros-to-be and sets sail after Helen? Will peering into that soup - as neuroscientist David Eagleman is now doing - actually give peace a chance? Maybe utopia can come out of the lab. Will a scientific understanding of love and hate deliver social programmes that undermine the nastiness without sacrificing the good?

Yuval Noah Harari on the Rise of Homo Deus  

“Studying history aims to loosen the grip of the past… It will not tell us what to choose, but at least it gives us more options.” – Yuval Noah Harari Yuval Noah Harari is the star historian who shot to fame with his international bestseller 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind'. In that book Harari explained how human values have been continually shifting since our earliest beginnings: once we placed gods at the centre of the universe; then came the Enlightenment, and from then on human feelings have been the authority from which we derive meaning and values. Now, using his trademark blend of science, history, philosophy and every discipline in between, Harari argues in his forthcoming book 'Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow', our values may be about to shift again – away from humans, as we transfer our faith to the almighty power of data and the algorithm. In conversation with Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s economics editor, Harari examined the political and economic revolutions that look set to transform society, as technology continues its exponential advance. What will happen when artificial intelligence takes over most of the jobs that people do? Will our liberal values of equality and universal human rights survive the creation of a massive new class of individuals who are economically useless? And when Google and Facebook know our political preferences better than we do ourselves, will democratic elections become redundant? As the 21st century progresses, not only our society and economy but our bodies and minds could be revolutionised by new technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology and brain-computer interfaces. After a few countries master the enhancement of bodies and brains, will they conquer the planet while the rest of humankind is driven to extinction?

Museums are Bad at Telling us Why Art Matters  

Museums are our new churches, as is commonly agreed. Millions of people flock to them to be uplifted, inspired, or distracted from everyday cares for an hour or two by encountering magnificent art. But while churches know exactly how to present art in order to foster faith and remind us of the Christian virtues, couldn't our museums do a better job at displaying art in a way that fully engages our emotions? Aren’t all those academic categories – “the 19th century”, “the Northern Italian School” – dry and dull? Aren't museums just places where great art goes to die? Why can't museums organize their collections in such a way as to convey art’s life-enhancing possibilities and even inspire us to become better people? But isn't that taking the "art as religion" line a bit too seriously? It implies that museums have a social function, even a didactic role to play. Do we want to visit museums in order to be told by invisible curators to think and feel in a certain way? And while it may be the case that religious art was created to instruct the minds and improve the souls of the congregation, can that be said of modern art whose purpose is to challenge, question or shock the viewer? And don’t ever soaring visitor numbers prove that our museums are already doing a brilliant job? We were joined by a panel of experts in June 2011 to debate the motion "Museums are Bad at Telling us Why Art Matters". Arguing in favour of the motion were philosopher and author Alain de Botton; Chief Executive of the RSA Matthew Taylor; and award-winning documentary film-maker Ben Lewis. Arguing against the motion were painter, writer and TV broadcaster Matthew Collings; Director of the National Portrait Gallery Sandy Nairne; and director of Tate Modern Chris Dercon. The debate was chaired by Tim Marlow, author broadcaster and Director of exhibitions at White Cube Gallery.

Yuval Noah Harari on the Myths we Need to Survive  

Myths. We tend to think they’re a thing of the past, fabrications that early humans needed to believe in because their understanding of the world was so meagre. But what if modern civilisation were itself based on a set of myths? This is the big question posed by Professor Yuval Noah Harari, author of 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind', which has become one of the most talked about bestsellers of recent years. In this exclusive appearance for Intelligence Squared, Harari argued that all political orders are based on useful fictions which have allowed groups of humans, from ancient Mesopotamia through to the Roman empire and modern capitalist societies, to cooperate in numbers far beyond the scope of any other species.

P J O'Rourke: The Funniest Man in America  

P.J. O'Rourke is America's premier political satirist and has more citations in 'The Penguin Dictionary of Humorous Quotations' than any other living writer. In this live appearance for Intelligence Squared in 2010, he discussed his new book, 'Don't Vote — It Just Encourages the Bastards', a brilliant, hilarious and ultimately sobering look at why politics and politicians are a necessary evil — but only just barely necessary. Moving from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman to a late-night girls' boarding school game called Kill-F*@k-Marry, O'Rourke explored the nature of the social contract. For him the essential elements are power, freedom and responsibility: the people like the freedom part, politicians like the power part, and hardly anyone wants to hear the responsibility part. This leads him to postulate the "Death, Sex and Boredom Theory of Politics."

Brexit Britain – Our Divided Nation  

This panel session was part of Brexit Britain, an afternoon of debate and discussion produced by BBC Newsnight in partnership with Intelligence Squared at the Royal Geographical Society in London. In this, the first session of the day, folk singer/songwriter and left-wing activist Billy Bragg, Director of Resolution think tank Torsten Bell, UKIP parliamentary spokesperson Suzanne Evans and Vice-Chair of Migration Watch UK Alp Mehmet, discussed what the referendum - and the campaigning that preceded it - have taught us about Britain. The discussion was chaired by Newsnight's lead presenter Evan Davis.

Brexit Britain - Political Fallout  

This panel session was part of Brexit Britain, an afternoon of debate and discussion produced by BBC Newsnight in partnership with Intelligence Squared at the Royal Geographical Society in London. In this, the second session of the day, Guardian columnist Owen Jones, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, and former advisor to the Chancellor Catherine Macleod, discussed the political fallout of the Brexit vote. The discussion was chaired by Newsnight's political editor Nick Watt.

Carlo Rovelli and Christophe Galfard on the Architecture of the Universe  

Does time exist? Was our universe born from a Big Bang, or from a Big Bounce triggered by a former universe imploding? Is this the only universe, or are there infinite ones, all expanding in parallel and out of sight of each other? These are just some of the questions that were tackled by world-renowned physicists Carlo Rovelli and Christophe Galfard when they came to the Intelligence Squared stage, in this event chaired by BBC science star Helen Czerski. Theoretical physics deals with matters at the very limits of human understanding. Einstein was once prompted to tell a student: ‘If you have understood me, then I haven’t been clear.’ In the face of this complexity, Rovelli and Galfard have found a way of explaining the mysteries of physics that has made them the most popular science communicators in their countries. In Italy, Rovelli has consistently outsold Fifty Shades of Grey with his book 'Seven Brief Lessons on Physics', which last year became a Sunday Times bestseller. Galfard — who gained his PhD as Stephen Hawking’s graduate student — won France’s Science Book of the Year for his book on the cosmos 'The Universe in Your Hand'. There could hardly be a better moment for Rovelli and Galfard to shed light on the revelations that physics is making about the universe. Technology is allowing us to observe for the first time in reality phenomena that have until now only been suggested in theory. Earlier this year, the LIGO observatory in the US made the first ever detection of gravitational waves — 100 years after Einstein predicted the existence of these ripples in spacetime. Galfard describes the discovery as the beginning of ‘a totally new era for mankind’. He states: ‘We haven’t lived through such a thing since the advent of Galileo’s telescope, which changed the whole face of the universe. This is history in the making. Mankind will probably remember this in 1,000 years.’ Being able to see these waves, Galfard and Rovelli will explain, will let us peer into the very origins of matter and time.

Richard Dawkins: The Rational Revolutionary  

In the 1960s and 70s, a revolution took place in the way we understand human nature. Out went Marx and Freud, and in came a rational, scientific approach to the way we see ourselves. At the vanguard of that revolution was Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist whose book 'The Selfish Gene' changed the thinking not just of other scientists but of all of us, and propelled its author to intellectual stardom as the modern heir to Darwin. To mark the 40th anniversary of 'The Selfish Gene' and Dawkins’ 75th birthday, Intelligence Squared staged a global event, bringing together luminaries from the worlds of science, philosophy and culture to engage with Dawkins about his life and work. Steven Pinker, celebrated cognitive scientist, and Daniel Dennett, philosopher and fellow ‘New Atheist’, were beamed in live from America. On-stage guests included the illusionist Derren Brown, an avowed fan of Dawkins’ theories about the workings of the mind, the science writer Susan Blackmore, who has further developed some of Dawkins’ important ideas, and the acclaimed novelist and playwright Michael Frayn. It was Dawkins’ understanding of the gene as the fundamental unit of natural selection that captured the popular imagination. It was Dawkins, too, who invented the word ‘meme’ to describe the cultural equivalent of a gene – an idea, belief or practice that replicates itself from person to person and is subject to the same selective pressures as genes – whether it’s an age-old religious practice or a modern fad such as the ice bucket challenge. And on the subject of religion, the publication of 'The God Delusion' a decade ago marked the moment when Dawkins became the patron saint of atheism. The book turned him into the world’s leading controversialist – hero-worshipped by atheists, demonised by believers. But throughout the hubbub of being the celebrity scientist and the non-believers’ poster boy, Dawkins continued his scientific studies at New College, Oxford, and in obscure corners across the world – where he honed the art of observing and writing beautifully about nature, conveying his sense of wonder at how organisms developed their complexity over the ages.

Ancient Worlds: A Meeting of East and West  

There’s a new school of history that’s revolutionising the way we look at the past. For centuries, our history has been taught in separate chunks, with the classical, European world divided from China and the East. This traditional, somewhat lazy history of civilisation, zeroing in on the Western Mediterranean, drastically restricts our understanding of the world – and the crucial ideas and problems that have affected human civilisation as a whole; from politics to religion; from war to money. The ‘ancient world’ has been confined in the West to Greece and Rome, when, of course, it encompassed the whole globe. By crashing through these boundaries, of time and geography, we can connect the strands of our human story and develop a more sophisticated sense of why the world looks like it does today – a global history for global times. This is nothing less than a new historical movement that completely changes the prism through which we see the past and explain the present. And on July 5th Intelligence Squared staged an unprecedented chance to see these new ideas developing over the course of a thrilling evening. Dr Michael Scott, the BBC’s charismatic young classics presenter, aired his ground-breaking view of interconnected history. His forthcoming book, Ancient Worlds: An Epic History of East and West, reveals how closely the world’s civilisations have engaged with each other, from the ancient era right up until today. Spinning through 1,000 years, and travelling from Spain to China – via the Mediterranean, Africa, western Asia, central Asia and India – Scott dramatically joinedtogether the dots of world history. He was joined in conversation with the distinguished classicist and BBC presenter Bettany Hughes. Hughes has also been leading the field in the new, globalised approach to ancient and modern history. In her 2015 BBC Four series, Genius of the Ancient World, she drew together the worlds of Socrates, Confucius and the Buddha. All three thinkers were active between the sixth and fifth century BC – a brief spell of unparalleled intellectual advance that revolutionised our perception of ourselves, then and now. Hughes is currently working on a major new history of Istanbul, the city which was the bridge between East and West for centuries.

Brexit: What Next?  

The UK has made the momentous decision to leave the EU. Intelligence Squared staged an emergency event to discuss the ramifications. A panel including Douglas Carswell, Jonathan Freedland, Josef Janning, Liz Kendall, Anand Menon and Adair Turner will examined: Who will be the next prime minister to steer us through the rocky negotiations with the EU that lie ahead? What kind of deal can we expect to get? Will the EU play tough with us in order to stop anti-EU contagion spreading to other member states? Or will Brexit be the wake-up call Europe needs to achieve real reform? Will the Brexit camp be able to deliver on its promises – on immigration, NHS spending etc? If not, will there be a backlash from the voters? Will we lose Scotland? Will George Osborne’s dire warnings about the economy be borne out? Is the second referendum which some Remainers are petitioning for a real possibility?

Yes, he Can! No, he couldn't. Obama Is A Failed President  

Eight years ago the banners said ‘Behold the new Kennedy!’ Tears flowed and expectations were sky-high as Obama spoke on election night surrounded by his young family. Here was America’s saviour, the man who could overcome the legacy of slavery, heal a divided nation, even reclaim its moral leadership. In fact, Obama’s record has been one of failure. Once the world’s policeman, today America is seen as weak. Tyrants know that Obama rarely exercises power and they have taken full advantage of that fact. Putin has rolled the tanks into part of Ukraine while China flexes its muscles in the South China Sea. Islamic State rose to ugly prominence on his watch, and Obama did little to stop it. He also let Assad get away with gassing his people even though he had warned such action would be crossing his ‘red line’. Traditional Middle East allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia are rightly dismayed. At home, the president has been just as limp. Some critics go so far as to say that he prepared the ground for Donald Trump, by failing to reassure Republican voters who feel vulnerable to terrorist attacks and not doing enough about uncontrolled immigration. Equally he has disappointed Democrats by his failure to counter the gun crime epidemic, and African Americans have gained little stature or pride from his time in the White House. Who would have imagined #BlackLivesMatter taking off under the first black president of the United States? Far from being an inspiring leader, Obama has turned out to be a sensitive loner, temperamentally unsuited to the hustle and bustle of power. To Obama’s supporters, such charges are ludicrous. Despite the many crises that have afflicted his time in office, he has pulled off a significant number of his promises. Through Obamacare, he has enabled 20 million uninsured adults to have health insurance – something seven previous presidents were unable to achieve. He agreed a climate change accord unthinkable under his predecessors. He negotiated a groundbreaking deal with Iran, stopping its dash to nuclear weapons. Far from being weak and passive in his foreign policy, he has been tough when needed. Bin Laden was killed and so were other terrorist leaders. Yet he has refused to continue hopeless wars that cost lives, tarnish America’s reputation and squander money. Instead, he has concentrated on reviving the economy. Millions of new jobs have been created in the past eight years. Obama’s stewardship has been calm and assured, generating no personal scandals. His real crime, in the eyes of his opponents, was his rejection of ideology. Partisans on all sides despise his willingness to compromise. So how should we assess Obama’s legacy, given that Guantanamo Bay is still open while American minds grow ever more closed? Arguing in favour of the motion were Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and the author of 'Reflections on the Revolution in Europe'; and David Frum, chairman of the think tank Policy Exchange. Opposing them were Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French philosopher and one of Europe’s best selling writers; and Neera Tanden, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. The debate was chaired by BBC World News presenter, Nik Gowing.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Democracy is Not Always the Best Form of Government  

Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. So said Winston Churchill and who would disagree? One man, one vote, the rule of law, equality and a free press. These are the principles which tens of thousands have been imprisoned or lost their lives for in despotic regimes from South America to Burma. But is the assumption that democracy always leads to a freer and more tolerant society correct? Many would argue that it can lead to quite illiberal outcomes especially where there is profound ethnic division. What if democracy were installed in Syria? It’s not hard to imagine what would happen to the minority groups who have enjoyed the protection of Assad’s regime. There have been successful transitions to democracy in post- war Germany and Japan, but free elections in countries such as Iraq and Egypt have not brought peace and prosperity. In this debate, from March 2014, Rosemary Hollis, Professor of Middle East Studies at City University, and Martin Jacques, academic and acclaimed author of 'When China Rules the World', proposed the motion. Opposing them were American political scientist Ian Bremmer and eminent Ukrainian MP Andriy Shevchenko.

The Return of History and the Death of Democracy, with Peter Frankopan and Kwasi Kwarteng  

25 years ago, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the future looked rosy. Liberal democracy, freedom and individual rights were on the march, triumphing over tyranny and repression. The end of the Cold War had brought an end to history, declared Francis Fukuyama. A quarter of a century on, that sunny picture has clouded over. History has come bouncing back, says Peter Frankopan, the Oxford historian and author of the bestseller, 'The Silk Roads', a major reassessment of world history which has won ecstatic reviews across the globe. We are living in a time of transition. Migration, religious fundamentalism and climate change leave many of us anxious about the future. So too does the rise of China, the re-emergence of Iran, the actions and posturing of Russia and a Middle East that seems fragile and volatile, where the dreams of the Arab Spring have turned to despair, as conflict rages across north Africa and the Middle East. How should we best understand what is going on – and how do we prepare for the new world that is emerging? On June 9th Frankopan came to the Intelligence Squared stage to put these questions into an historical perspective. He was joined by the politician Kwasi Kwarteng, a rising star in Westminster, whose books on the history of empire and on finance have given him a rare perspective on global change and on the ways the West has engaged with other parts of the world, sometimes as he sees it with disastrous effect. Frankopan and Kwarteng examined the rise of Asia and asked whether we are entering a new era where Europe is becoming not just less important, but potentially irrelevant. They will also look at the lessons that can be learned from the recent and not so recent past. As Frankopan argues so powerfully in 'The Silk Roads', history looks very different when viewed from different perspectives. The rhythm of change that we find so unsettling today has characterised previous centuries and is not only unsurprising, he claims, but actually predictable. The globe has rotated towards the West for the last five hundred years. Now, as Frankopan will explain, it is turning east, towards the new Silk Roads, largely funded by China, that fan out in all directions across Asia. Is it closing time in the gardens of the west, as our old comfortable democratic assumptions – and our comfort – fall prey to a world order that is changing at terrifyingly quick pace?

The Benefits System Perpetuates Misery  

Beveridge would be turning in his grave. The benefits system that his 1942 report introduced has become a travesty. Right now there are some 4.5m people in the UK living in households where nobody has a job. Behind that figure lies a subsection of society mired in multi-generational unemployment. What was meant to be a safety net has become a poverty trap. Far from being the short-term stopgap that Beveridge envisaged, benefits have created a culture of long-term welfare dependency. And that leads to misery. A 2012 survey showed that the unemployed in Britain are 3.6 times more likely than those with jobs to say they are seriously unhappy. If you want to help the poor, don’t just throw money at them. Incentivise and help them into work, and reform the system in which many people are actually better off not working at all than taking a job. Such an environment of worklessness simply makes it harder for the next generation to break out of the cycle. That’s the argument that was made by journalist James Bartholomew and social scientist Dr Adam Perkins, who has made a study of the adverse effect on personality of state benefits. Taking them on was Jess Phillips MP, dubbed Labour’s ‘future red queen’, and Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, who argued that benefits aren’t a handout but a hand-up. It’s all very well saying that benefits perpetuate misery. The fact is that one in five people in the UK still lives under the poverty line. And what after all caused this privation in the poorest parts of the country? Not benefits, but the free-market economics introduced by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s, which led to the closing of mines and the devastation of industries in northern cities. The benefits systems isn’t perpetuating misery. It’s picking up the pieces of the neoliberal juggernaut. Attacks on benefits are a continuing assault on society’s neediest — part of a concerted campaign to dismantle the welfare state, as typified by the Chancellor’s now abandoned proposal that more than 600,000 disabled people collectively lose £1.3bn a year from their payments. Is that how society protects its most vulnerable? This isn’t benevolent reform; it’s austerity making the worst-off pay.

Let the bad guys be: foreign intervention does more harm than good  

In February 2012 Intelligence Squared Asia presented leading voices and influential figures in a debate about foreign intervention. This discussion raised questions such as: Does foreign intervention lend itself to long-term partnerships characterized by respect and progress? Does it pose fundamentally damaging practical and moral problems? What country has the right to meddle in the affairs of another? Do human rights violations compel other nations to embrace interventionism as foreign policy? Under what circumstances may the presumption of sovereign state integrity be set aside? Arguing in favour of the motion were Dr Edward Luttwak, a leading public intellectual, historian and government consultant on strategic affairs; and Professor Zhang Weiwei, author of 'Shifting Gravity' and professor of International Relations at the Geneva School of Diplomacy. Against them were Emily Lau, Legislative Council (LegCo) member and vice-chair of the Hong Kong Democratic Party; and MJ Akbar, Editorial Director of India Today magazine, Editor of The Sunday Guardian and author of 'Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan'. The debate was chaired by Deborah Kan, new media entrepreneur, award-winning news anchor and former Executive Producer at the Wall Street Journal.

The Great Intelligence Squared Brexit Debate  

How do we decide? The in-out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union on June 23 is a once-in-a-generation vote. For some of us it’s a matter of gut political instinct: we are natural inners or outers. But for many, coming to an informed decision on how to vote is a challenge, given the swirl of claims and counterclaims being made by pro-EU campaigners on one side, and Brexit supporters on the other. Every day there’s a fresh round of media stories, with ‘Project Fear’ warning us of the dire effect Brexit would have on everything, from jobs to farming and the NHS, followed by a slew of denials by the out campaign along with their own scare stories, such as the horrific crimes committed by EU citizens living in Britain under the freedom of movement right. Just give us the facts, people cry. How would Brexit affect trade, for example? Is it true that Britain would be in limbo for ten years while our existing deals with other countries are renegotiated, or would we move swiftly to a new trading relationship with the outside world? And what about security? Does being part of the EU keep us safer, since it gives us access to other members’ databases on suspected terrorists? Or would Brexit lead to security gains, because Britain’s borders could be strengthened and extremists more easily deported? In this major debate, to make the case for remaining in the EU we hosted former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who has long supported further European integration. Against him was Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP and chair of Vote Leave. No ‘little Englander’, she argued that Brexit is the progressive choice. But this was a debate with a difference. As well as our two main advocates, there were three special experts – who shared the findings of their research on the economy, law and immigration. In addition, there was a professional fact checker from Full Fact, an independent factchecking charity, who was on hand to resolve any disputed claim at the click of a button.

Is the Party Over for Economic Growth? When economic stagnation becomes the new normal  

It was a blast. Since the Industrial Revolution, we enjoyed unprecedented economic growth, propelled by a seemingly unstoppable wave of technological innovation. For 100 years from around 1870, life in the West was transformed by inventions such as electricity, the car and domestic appliances, which led to soaring growth, better lives and booming wealth for all. The poor became less poor, and the number of middle income earners exploded. In the second half of the 20th century the rest of the world began to catch up, with China lifting hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty and the rise of the BRICs. But then it stopped. Since around 1970, middle incomes in the US have stagnated, while the top 1% have pulled away in terms of earnings and wealth. Productivity growth fell. The great recession of 2008 was expected to be a blip but we are still in the doldrums. China’s miracle growth has shuddered to a slowdown and is set to drop even further. Just last week, the European Central Bank announced fresh rounds of quantitative easing to try and pump life into the eurozone’s flagging economy. Many economists are now predicting that stagnation is here to stay. We may hear a lot of excited talk from the techno-optimists about the Second Machine Age and the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the rewards they are set to bring us, but some say that most of the fruits of the IT revolution have already been harvested. For example, driverless cars may be the future, but they will change the world far less than the invention of cars in the first place – and put millions of professional drivers out of a job. If the age of endless growth is over, how should we assess the implications? Does the developed world face decades of misery-inducing recession, or – given that the planet’s resources are finite – can we look forward to a more sustainable future where ever-increasing consumption does not count as the main good? Or are the economic doom-mongers wrong? Will capitalism, that engine of human ingenuity, continue to be the route to rising prosperity for all? If so, what are the mechanisms that will kick-start the global economy again? On 16th May 2016, we were joined by a star panel for this major discussion on the future of the global economy. On stage were Stephanie Flanders, JP Morgan’s chief market strategist for Europe; Deirdre McCloskey, acclaimed US economic historian; and Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey and author of 'Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet'. The event was chaired by Economics Editor of BBC News Kamal Ahmed.

Assisted suicide should be legalised  

The law allows me to kill myself, but what if I have a progressive illness and reach a stage when I long to end my life but cannot do so unaided. Isn't it needlessly cruel and illogical that as the law stands, no friend or family member or doctor can then help me die without risking prosecution and a possible jail sentence? No it isn't, say those who oppose legalising assisted suicide. Think of the pressures that would build once it became a legally sanctioned option - not least the pressure to extend the category of those whom it is permissible to help kill beyond the terminally ill to the old, the frail and even the mildly depressed. Think of the internal and external pressure on elderly relatives to seek assistance for an early exit so as to avoid being a burden and using up the family inheritance; or the pressure on the NHS to create more bed space. Would it not be better, say opponents of legalisation, to retain the kind of fudge we've got at the moment, allowing the Director of Public Prosecutions to give a nod and a wink to assisted suicide unless he suspects foul play? Or is that just a recipe for the very uncertainty - and attendant misery that gives rise to such passionate calls for a change in the law in the first place? We were joined by a panel of experts in 2011 to debate the motion "Assisted suicide should be legalised". Arguing in favour of the motion were Emily Jackson, Professor of Law at the London School of Economics; Mary Warnock, moral philosopher, life peer and former Member of House of Lords Select Committee on Euthanasia; and the late Debbie Purdy, a right-to-die campaigner who in 2009 won a landmark ruling to clarify the law on assisted suicide. Arguing against the motion were Lord Carlile QC, barrister, Liberal Democrat peer and chairman of Care not Killing; Baroness Finlay, Professor of Palliative Medicine at Cardiff University; and Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford and author of 'Questions of Life and Death: Christian Faith and Medical Intervention'. The debate was chaired by journalist and broadcaster Sue Lawley.

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